Fernanda De Velasco is a membership and fundraising associate for the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County, California, an organization that works to create and preserve affordable housing. (Photo courtesy of Fernanda De Velasco)
Fernanda De Velasco studied all subjects with equal interest in high school because she wanted to determine what would suit her future. Eventually, she thought biology would be the path for her. But the 2016 election changed everything.
“It really opened my eyes and made me really interested in knowing how people can make a difference,” Fernanda says. “I want to learn what I can do to be part of that change.”
Fernanda studied journalism and political science at San Jose State University. Shortly after graduation, she found her opportunity to make a difference as a membership and fundraising associate for the Housing Leadership Council (HLC) of San Mateo County. This nonprofit organization works with the community to create and preserve affordable housing.
I think involving the people in the communities you’re serving should be essential, and HLC does that.
Fernanda De Velasco
For Fernanda, the council’s mission hits close to home. A decade ago, when she and her family arrived in California’s Bay Area from Mexico, housing was hard to find. So, Fernanda, her sister, mother, stepfather and grandmother shared a one-bedroom apartment. Fernanda says the apartment was always home, even if it was tight. But moving into a house allowed her to have dedicated space to work and more opportunities to spread out.
“I can understand firsthand the importance of having a comfortable place to call home,” she says.
Fernanda’s home is more than a place to sleep. It serves as the backdrop for both personal and professional life. She works a hybrid schedule — a couple of days in the office and some at home. The flexibility allows her time with her family and the opportunity to see colleagues face-to-face.
Follow along to learn more about a typical day in Fernanda’s life.
Dog Walking and Preparing for the Day
One of the things I liked about working for HLC is that I get to choose my hours. My work day starts at 8 a.m. On workdays from home, I get up around 7 a.m. and walk my dog, Carson. He’s an Australian Shepherd, so he has a lot of energy. When I’m working from home, he’s always wanting to play — it’s fun!
I’m still living with my sister, parents and grandmother, but I have a room dedicated to my work area in my house, and it’s peaceful and quiet. I feel fortunate to have that space. The first hour of my workday is usually behind-the-scenes tasks for myself. After that, I catch up on emails, set my schedule for the day, and engage with our audience on social media.
I also really enjoy going to the office. On days I’m in the office, I have to wake up earlier — around 6 a.m. — to commute from San Jose to San Mateo. I’ll usually make a shake or smoothie to take on the road and prepare a salad or snack to keep me going throughout the day. Then, in the car, I’ll call my dad, who lives in Mexico. I actually enjoy the commute because it gives me an hour to talk with my dad.
Supporting the Team and the Community
Around 9:30 or 10 a.m., we start having meetings. My colleague, supervisor and I check in and see if anyone needs support. As a small team, we’re often helping each other out. Everyone is very passionate about what we’re doing, and I knew, even when I was interviewing, that it was a space I wanted to be a part of. I think involving the people in the communities you’re serving should be essential, and HLC does that. We work closely with local communities and leaders.
I like to call my team my second family. I feel very comfortable around them and asking for help. We each work on different things, which I didn’t expect, but we’re able to grow in those different areas, which has been really exciting.
If I’m home, I usually take a small break after my meetings and go outside for some fresh air and take a walk. When I started working, I didn’t take any breaks from the computer. I’ve realized that getting some fresh air is important for me. Sometimes it’s just in my backyard drinking some tea — anything to get me off the screen.
After my short break, I get back to work. I handle sponsor and member communication — emails, reminders, and letting people know about our events and sponsorship opportunities. We have some in-person events that are mostly networking, and we invite speakers to share the importance of affordable housing. We also have informational events. For example, we host one focused on how expensive housing can be and how we can tackle that issue.
I like to think of my job as divided into parts. The first part is providing help with our fundraising efforts, reaching out to potential sponsors, or following up with existing ones. Then, for events, I work to get sponsors to see what we’re doing.
Membership is another part of my job. I follow up with our members by sharing information about our events, sending our newsletter, and pitching people who might be interested in becoming a part of our organization. I do a lot to keep communication lines open.
The last part of my role is social media. I work alongside our organizers on campaigns. Policy and housing elements go into it, and I ensure the information is published on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and in our newsletter. I try to make those campaigns a bit more digestible to the general public.
Time To Connect
We all eat lunch together at the office, and I always enjoy that. My sister studies from home, so I have lunch with her on days I’m working from home. We’ll cook and eat in the backyard or the kitchen. It’s a great time to take a screen break, and I always appreciate that time together.
I start doing our social media work when I’m done with lunch. It involves producing graphics for our events, drafting language to publicize them, working on our newsletter, writing social media copy or putting up event ads.
Recently, I also worked on a booklet about affordable housing. It’s a combination of affordable housing information and profiles of residents. I gathered their stories, chose the quotes and pictures, and worked with a designer to make the booklet. I felt like a part of the storytelling, and I’ve been excited to see it come to life.
Engaging With the Audience
When my day is wrapping up, I like to scan the local news, like the San Mateo Daily. I look for news articles about affordable housing to share with our social media audience. I’ll also spend some time on social media engaging with our followers.
When I’m in the office, I’ll leave around 3:30 p.m. to beat traffic and finish working from home. Usually, around 4:30 p.m, I’m back on social media, making sure posts are scheduled to publish later in the day and continue to engage with our audience.
Recently, my direct supervisor asked which part of my job I like the most. I find that I enjoy working on social media, our newsletter, and communicating with our members. So, I’m getting the opportunity to do more communications training, and it’s been exciting to grow those skills. Hopefully, my role will move more towards communications for the organization.
Fresh Air With Friends
I eat dinner around 5 p.m., and then I keep myself busy. When we started working, my best friend and I made a pact to have hobbies outside of work. We walk and enjoy the fresh air together at a park between our houses.
Sometimes I hang out with my boyfriend or go roller skating. And I always make sure to have an evening to myself when I schedule therapy or yoga. My evening routine is always something different, but I like to make sure I’m keeping busy.
I’m trying to get more into reading non-fiction books, so I joined a book club I found on Instagram. It’s part of a program called LGBTQ Wellness. Having other people to discuss the books with has been fun.
Preparing for the Future
While getting ready for bed, I might read my book and have some tea. Then, the next day, I do this all again.
I think there’s a lot of opportunity for me at HLC and for us to make affordable housing more inclusive and equitable. People tend to forget that affordable housing won’t happen in a day. We’re working toward future affordable housing by putting in the work now.
We have an event that focuses on affordable homes for the next generation, and I think that’s how I like to describe the fulfillment of my role — making sure that future generations will have a place to call home.